The Shale Trail passes the iconic red bings and ex-mining villages as it links West Calder and Winchburgh via the Shale Museum at the Almond Valley Heritage Centre and incorporates 6 local loop routes around residential and landscape features including the iconic Five Sisters bing, the most prominent reminder of the shale industry.

The trail can be enjoyed at home, aswell as on the way with 15 QR coded waymarkers, having been animated on the Shale Trail website that links history, environment and geology with stories, outdoor artwork and quizzes from local communities, including primary school pupils. 

Many million years ago shale was created by sediments, with their organic content, being buried and subjected to increased pressure. These deposits changed through time to produce the oil shale mined after discovery by James “Paraffin” Young, a chemist working in coal mining in the mid 18th century. Grangemouth refinery opened in 1924, using expertise developed in shale oil refineries, to process imported oil, leaving the shale oil industry to contract, eventually closing completely in the 1960s.

The great legacy is the red shale mountains of West Lothian that people can now explore more easily and with access to a wide portfolio of information (although some of the bings have disappeared into hardcore for the M8).

During the last century the land had begun to evolve from bare ground, through grassland to scrub woodland and then woods. Shale bings are like volcanoes in a way, largely free of impurities and chemically neutral, very similar to volcanic lava. Ecologically, they are prime habitats, completely bare and pristine, which are very unusual. If left alone and allowed to develop naturally nearly everywhere in Britain will try to become woodland. The remaining bings are on the way to woodland whilst providing places for some of West Lothian’s rarest plants. Plants that are usually found on sand dunes or dry stone walls are found on the bings.